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FROM THE BELLY OF THE BEAST - NOTE NO. 6 by Godfrey Vincent

posted 5 Jul 2020, 20:51 by Gerry Kangalee
1. It is the month of July and COVID 19 is spreading like wildfire in the United States. At the time of writing, some 129,000 plus deaths in the United States. As of July 1, 2020, the US has seen its daily COVID 19 cases rise to 48,000. In addition to the spread of the virus, thousands of people are engaged in class struggle. While Black people are protesting and making demands on the system against systematic racism and police brutality, there is a much deeper struggle taking place against capitalism.

2. What is class struggle? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Class struggle/class warfare/Class conflict is the opposition of and contention between social or economic classes. For Marxists, such a struggle exists between the bourgeoise and proletariat. The bourgeois class owns the means of production and have great influence over the political, cultural, and socio-economic structures of the society.

The proletariat are workers who sell their labor. In modern terms, we can say that the class struggle involves the contestation for power and dominance between the capitalist class and its allies and the working class and its allies. In today’s language, we will say that the capitalist class is the 1% and the working class is the 99%.

3. In the United States, this struggle is difficult to perceive because a large proportion of the population likes to identify with the middle class. When one listens to the politicians, they speak as if there are two classes in the US: the middle class and the capitalist class. However, the reality is there is a large working class and working poor population.

4. However, despite this distortion, class struggle is much a part of the landscape of the United States because wherever capitalism exists, there is oppression. While workers fought for the right to form trade unions, these rights are not absolute because the capitalist class and their allies are always fighting to nullify these rights. The American working class fought to ensure these rights are protected. The capitalist class brutalized them at Homestead, Pennsylvania, in the hills of West Virginia, Haymarket, Chicago, and Detroit, Michigan (See Jeremy Brecher, Strike (2020)).

5. From 1970 to the present, the American working class has faced declining wages, poor working conditions, the evisceration of collective bargaining. This is so because capitalism entered a neo-liberal phase that wiped out manufacturing jobs and replaced it with a service economy. The goal is to drive wages in the US down to the level of the Global South.

6. However, the working class fought back. In 1970, the U.S. Postal Strike, which took place in March 1970, included 210,000 strikers. It was brought on by what the workers perceived as low wages, poor working conditions, and meager benefits. The strike began in New York City and spread nationwide. During the years that Nixon was president, collective bargaining by the U.S. postal workers was banned. Ignoring the ban, the workers refused to end the strike, leaving mail delivery at a standstill.

7. July 1, 1975 Cesar Chavez and sixty supporters of the United Farm Workers embarked on a thousand-mile march across California to rally the state's farm workers.

42 Astonishing Facts About Ronald Reagan8. In 1981, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association struck in defiance of the law. Newly elected President Ronald Reagan fired all the strikers and broke the union, sanctioning the practice of hiring "permanent replacements" for striking workers. Solidarity day labor rally draws 400,000 to the Mall in Washington D.C. Come 1989, the United Mine Workers of America wildcat strike of the Pittston Coal Group in Virginia spreads across the eastern coalfields involving up to 50,000 miners in 11 states. Using non-violence and civil disobedience, the miners win a contract after a bitter nine-month struggle.

9. In 1997, The UPS Workers Strike kicked off in Aug. 1997, led by the Teamsters. It rallied some 185,000 delivery-workers across the nation and was the largest strike of the decade. Workers wanted part-time jobs turned into full-time work, higher wages, and the safeguarding of their multiemployer pension plan. With public support high, the strikers' demands were granted (For 1-9, see Investopedia).

10. In 1999, thousands of workers, students, activists converged in the streets in Seattle, Washington and took on the might of the World Bank and IMF and the policies of The Washington Consensus that prompted a neo-liberal globalization order.

11. In the Spring of 2006, in over 160 U.S cities, five million people took to the streets to protect immigrant rights. Reeling from the effects of the Great Recession that crippled the US in 2008, the working class movement struck back with the formation of the Occupy Movement spread across the US and began to protest against the one percent and their corporate allies (See Brecher).

12. Come 2013, three Black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi formed Black Lives Matter that has led the protest for Racial Justice. This movement faced off the same forces that crushed the Occupy Movement.

13. The 2018-19 education workers' strikes in the United States began on February 22, 2018, after local activists compelled the West Virginia state leadership of the West Virginia branches of the American
 Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association into holding a strike vote. The strike, which ended when teachers returned to their classrooms on March 7, inspired similar, statewide strikes in Oklahoma and Arizona. It also inspired smaller-scale protests by school staff in Kentucky, North Carolina, Colorado, and led to a school bus driver strike in Georgia. Additionally, around this time, adjunct professors at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia protested over pay.
 Fight for $15
14. The strikes continued in the fall of 2018 when there was a collective bargaining shortcoming between the United Teachers Los Angeles union and the Los Angeles Unified School District in September 2018, prompting a strike that began in January 2019. This also resulted in a teachers' walkout in Virginia, a long-time right-to-work state, as well as in Denver and Oakland, California. The national wave
 of strikes has been referred to as Red for Ed or #RedforEd, with striking workers often wearing red shirts to show solidarity (See Zachery B. Wolf, CNN, 02/23/2019). It was not only teachers that joined the struggle but retail workers as well.

15. On September 5, 2019, some 47,000 supermarket workers went on strike for higher pay and a contract that protects their retirement and health benefits. Moreover, on May 1, 2020, workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, and Instacart staged a strike to protest the lack of protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. These strikes are not new. In 2013, Fast food workers, across sixty states, protested outside of McDonalds, Burger King and other restaurants demanding a $15-hour wage and health benefits (Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, Reuters, 08/28/2013).

16. Th
e Class struggle has not been easy because it has been fractured by race, gender, ethnicity, national, regional, and local differences. However, we are seeing an emergence of a new kind of unity as Black Lives Matter has been able to assemble a broad based coalition that seeks to unite people across lines of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and age.

17. The same forces, that have brutalized the working class from the 1970s, are doing it again in 2020. In the name of Law and Order, they are attempting to use the full force of the state to crush the movement.
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